[Theme in Focus] Youth | Science | Society WBC-RTI.info Newsletter April 2016

The participants of the Western Balkans Vienna Summit 2015 clearly recognized that improving the perspective of young generations is of “paramount importance in ensuring stability, sustainable development and progress of the region”. They also welcomed "the proposal to make civil society an additional important element of the Berlin Process". Both, Youth and Civil Society related activities can also be considered of utmost relevance for the region when it comes to improving the framework conditions for research and innovation - for the future excellent science certain pre-conditions need to be met including timely and focused engagement of the youth and the civil society actors.

Furthermore, Western Balkans Joint Science Conferences within the framework of the Western Balkans Summit Series offer a platform to further discuss recent RTI developments and needs in the region as well as the actions related to education, research and innovation needed for the overall success of the EU-integration efforts of the Western Balkans. The 1st Joint Science Conference was held on July 15-17, 2015 in Halle and Berlin, while the 2nd Joint Science Conference will take place on May 22-24, 2016 in Vienna. Also the next Steering Platform on Research will take place soon (on June 7, 2016) in Sarajevo, hosted by the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC). We will inform you about the outcomes and results of the Steering Platform as well as of the Vienna Science Conference in one of our upcoming newsletter.

Towards Western Balkans Paris Summit 2016, two interesting events are taking place focusing the Youth and the Civil Society: The Connecting Youth conference will take place in Paris on 4 July 2016, in the margins of the Western Balkans Summit; the Civil Society Forum Belgrade, as an important CSOs initiative which will serve as a basis for formulating a set of messages that will be communicated at the Western Balkans Paris Summit is currently organised in Novi Sad and Belgrade under the umbrella of the “Civil Society Forum of the Western Balkans Summit Series”.

 The European Commission and the Government of the French Republic, supported by the European Youth Forum and SALTO South East Europe Resource Centre recently launched a Call for Applications to the Western Balkans Youth Conference. During the Connecting Youth conference, the participants will discuss among other questions on what can be done more in the region to maximise the youth potential or what else can be done to address youth unemployment.

Having in mind the weak economic structure in the region, low level of industrial production, low performance results of the educational systems, high unemployment levels, as well as in some cases the lack of motivation, commitment and trust – to name just few challenges in the region which all had negative impact on human capital development in the WB countries  while leading to severe brain drain from the region – it can only be welcomed that currently political commitment and strong emphasis is put on initiatives related to youth. Examples include the organisation of the above mentioned Connecting Youth conference in Paris or the establishment of the “Regional Youth Cooperation Office of the Western Balkans” (RYCO) based on the declaration signed during the Western Balkans Summit in Vienna 2015, by the Prime Ministers of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo*, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia, which is to be officially launched in July 2016 with the aim to become operational as of January 1st, 2017.

Another challenge related to young people from the region is the fact that they are often formally well-educated but not necessarily equipped with the right skills needed at the local labor market. Furthermore, the education system in this region does not encourage creativity and entrepreneurial culture among pupils and students at satisfactory level. What can the Western Balkans learn from programmes tackling youth unemployment within the EU and is youth entrepreneurship an efficient tool for countering youth unemployment are two of the questions to be also discussed during the Connecting Youth conference in Paris.

Youth cooperation is also on the agenda of the Civil Society Forum Belgrade, as an important CSOs initiative which will serve as a basis for formulating a set of messages that will be communicated at the Western Balkans Paris Summit. The Forum is organised on May 12-13, 2016 in Novi Sad and Belgrade under the umbrella of the “Civil Society Forum of the Western Balkans Summit Series”, as a joint initiative of the European Fund for the Balkans (EFB) and ERSTE Foundation, supported by the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC), Delegation of EU in Serbia and the Provincial Secretariat for Science and Technology, and in close cooperation with the European Movement in Serbia – Local Council in Novi Sad and the Center for Regionalism. It is part of the Western Balkans Summit Series Forums initiative, which intends to contribute to the greater role, visibility and impact of the civil society in the so-called “Berlin process” and the broader EU integration process of the Western Balkan aspirants.

This initiative will build up on the work that has already been done in the framework of the Civil Society Forum of the Western Balkans Summit Vienna 2015 and other follow up activities, including the RCC’s Regional Cooperation Day in Sarajevo in December 2015.

Heading towards the Western Balkans Paris Summit in July 2016, the Civil Society Forum series aims to establish a sustainable and relevant second-track process as a common WB-EU platform dedicated to the challenges in the Western Balkans, but first and foremost to European cohesion, which has to be co-shaped by the civil society, policy community, media and other relevant stakeholders.

Having over 100 participants, representatives of think tanks, policy institutes and other NGOs from the countries of the Western Balkans as well as high EU officials and MEPs, diplomats, members of regional and international organisations and foundations, local and regional media, the Civil Society Forum Belgrade will be focused on the broader issue of the civil society participation in agenda setting, in making and debating policy proposals and in evaluating policy results on the following subjects: youth cooperation, migration crisis, conflict resolution and solving of bilateral disputes and environment/climate change agenda in the region and Europe.

Several regional initiatives have been established in the last years recognising and tackling the regional challenges related to low performance results of the educational systems or high youth unemployment levels, or related to the insufficient cooperation within the triple helix or the cooperation between science and society. To name just few: the Education Reform Initiative of South Eastern Europe (ERI SEE) is a regional platform for cooperation in the field of education and training aiming inter alia to facilitate information exchange and cooperation between the education and the research sector in South Eastern Europe; Balkan regional platform for youth participation and dialogue aims on increasing awareness on youth participation, youth activism and the possibilities of young people creating and influencing the policies closely related to them. One of the goals of the Platform is to improve cooperation and the coordination between Civil Society (CS) and the public authorities with the active participation of youngsters. SALTO SEE promotes and offers support for cooperation in the youth field between Erasmus+ Programme Countries and the Western Balkans.

It goes without saying that initiatives towards youth mentioned in the conclusions of the Vienna Summit 2015 and implemented towards Paris Summit 2016, thus supported by high level experts and policy stakeholders from the region and EU (from strengthening reform efforts of the education systems in order to provide youth with relevant basic and transversal skills, to encouraging mobility of the youth, to supporting the development of a vocational training system in the region and other initiatives mentioned in the text above, to support recruiting new talent for science or recognising social awareness and responsibility) are important initiatives. They are even essential measures to support the integration of the region into European Research Area (ERA) and in turn the European Union. And thus for a simple reason - both top-down and bottom-up measures are needed on this way resulting in reduced brain drain, increased youth employment and inclusive and empowered society.

The organisations from the Western Balkans are also well advised to consider the participation in one of the current open calls within the Horizon 2020 Specific Programme - ’Science with and for Society' (SWAFS). The aim of the programme is "to build effective cooperation between science and society,  to  recruit  new  talent  for  science  and  to  pair  scientific  excellence  with  social awareness and responsibility". Please find some selected open calls here.

A selection of related events, news, calls, documents, organisations, links etc. is available here.


Document type
  • Newsletter


Publication Year


Geographical focus
  • Western Balkans
Scientifc field / Thematic focus
  • Cross-thematic/Interdisciplinary

Entry created by Ines Marinkovic on June 28, 2016
Modified on December 30, 2016